Aug. 23, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Romney VP Might Take Budget Out of Election

Ohio Sen. Rob Portman would create an even bigger budget problem for Romney. Portman uses his experience as director of the Office of Management and Budget during the George W. Bush administration as a credential for the vice presidency, and many cite his serving in that job as one of the main reasons he should be on the ticket.

But Portman was OMB director for only 13 months - from May 2006 to June 2007 - and prepared only one budget, for fiscal 2008. That year's deficit ended up being 267 percent higher than the year before.

Portman's bigger problem will be that having him as a running mate will force Romney and all other Republican candidates to defend the dismal overall Bush record on the budget, which changed the four consecutive surpluses under a Democratic president (and Republican Congress) to eight consecutive and growing deficits under a Republican. At the very least, that will neutralize the message that Republicans are good for the deficit while President Barack Obama and Democrats are bad.

Some believe House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (Wis.) would be the perfect candidate to raise the budget issue in the campaign. After all, his budgets were right on the mark as far as tea party talking points are concerned, with big cuts in spending and reductions in taxes.

But Ryan and his budgets will be extremely vulnerable in a campaign because they include significant changes in Medicare. In case anyone has forgotten, Medicare is such a political hot potato that it has successfully been used in recent elections by Democrats to criticize Republicans and by Republicans to criticize Democrats. Polls show that even tea party supporters don't want Medicare spending reduced.

Having Ryan on the ticket will allow the debate to be changed from what the GOP wants to talk about - the budget - to what Democrats will quickly say is the Romney/Ryan effort to kill Medicare. To say the least, that would put the Republican ticket on the defensive.

This could well mean that Romney's best choice for making the budget into an issue in the campaign will be to select a running mate who has no budget credentials at all.

Stan Collender is a partner at Qorvis Communications and founder of the blog Capital Gains and Games. He is also the author of "The Guide to the Federal Budget."

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